LONDON — A top infectious disease expert says there is no evidence of a “super cold” getting people sick in recent months. Instead, researchers believe people have just forgotten what it’s like to be unwell while staying indoors during the coronavirus pandemic.
Professor Neil Mabbott, from the University of Edinburgh, tells SWNS the absence of most viruses last year due to rigorous COVID safety measures had led to waning immunity to more common illnesses. Although people may be more susceptible to colds and flu after the pandemic – Mabbott says a “super cold” is just a buzzword.
Prof. Mabbot adds regular testing is crucial with some symptoms such as a sore throat and sneezing, echoing those experienced by people infected with COVID’s Delta variant. Moreover, cold viruses are far more transmissible from surface contact than coronavirus.
“It’s the buzzword that’s going around but I don’t think we have any evidence there is a super-cold or super-flu going around,” Prof. Mabbot tells SWNS in a statement.
“Essentially, it’s the way our bodies are responding to the circulating cold. It will be working on multiple levels, one of which is that we’ve had so little exposure that immunity we build up will have waned.”
Colds becoming ‘a shock’ to the system
“We’ve also forgotten what it’s likely to have a cold. It’s a shock,” Mabbot continues. “I can’t remember the last time I had one – so far I’ve managed to dodge it. Colds for most people are just a nuisance and in a normal healthy person would last two weeks, maybe three maximum. Sore throat, runny nose, but with time they start to alleviate.”
“That’s in a normal situation, but we haven’t had much cold circulating and what that’s doing is we develop an immune response to the cold that’s going around at that time and that helps to provide a little bit of protection the next time a cold comes around,” the professor adds. “Simply using a door handle or lift button might be sufficient to transmit that cold or flu.”
According to Mabbot, research is ongoing to try to establish how cold and flu viruses interact with coronavirus.
“Does having flu make you more susceptible to having coronavirus?” the researcher asks. “I think there is some evidence for the flu that might affect the outcome of coronavirus but we aren’t sure about colds themselves. The interaction between these pathogens is certainly an interesting area.”
Could colds protect against COVID?
A recent study found previous, recent exposure to cold viruses could provide some protection against COVID-19 by helping the body eliminate the virus before it starts to replicate.
Researchers from University College London looked at NHS workers who were at high risk of infection during the early part of the pandemic, but had not fallen ill and developed no protective antibodies. They found they had been infected but they were protected by their T-cells, which can destroy infected cells.
“Memory T-cells induced in response to infection with seasonal coronaviruses can provide protection against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19,” Prof. Mabbott reports.
“These T-cells recognize an internal feature of coronavirus rather than the virus spike protein that is used in the COVID-19 vaccines. So this new information could be used to design new vaccines to provide cross-protection against a range of coronaviruses.”
“It is important to note that there are many other different types of virus that can cause colds in addition to other coronaviruses,” the researcher concludes.
The findings of the University College London study appear in the journal Nature.
South West News Service writers Ellie Forbes and Caroline Wilson contributed to this report.